5 Items that Should be on Every Bucket List

universal bucket list

Once again, those “100 things to do before you die” lists are making their rounds on Facebook. You know, the “100 foods you should eat before you die” or the “100 places to visit before you die.” I admit that I try to cross as many as I can off the list, but inevitably, I fall short. I’ve only eaten 32 out of 100 foods against the average user at 45, and 15 places, where the average user sits at 21. Even among my friends, I generally am the least well-rounded as far as foods and traveling goes.

Of course, these lists are just for fun, but still, it got me thinking. Everyone’s got his or her own bucket list, and they must vary wildly from person to person. Is there a universal list of things everyone should try before they shuffle off this mortal coil? I would argue for the following:

1. Stand up for something you believe in.

Everyone has strong convictions: political, religious, or social. At some point in your life, pick a conviction and really support it. Volunteer at an non-profit for several years. Help a local candidate with the same views get elected to office. Convince your friends to donate money for a cause. Spread the word to as many people as you can.

Being part of a movement fosters feelings of community, and others will remember your passion for years to come. What better way to be remembered than by what you believe in?

2. Help someone in a big way, knowing you will get nothing in return.

It’s great, of course, to help people out when they need it. I’m just as willing as the next person to chip in $5 if a friend-of-a-friend has a major medical illness. However, we have opportunities to go beyond that, to really help someone out with absolutely no expectation of a return favor.

During a very rough stage in my career when the job market was tight, a man I had met at a conference years before heard about my job search troubles and helped me land a job in my field. Before he reached out to me, I couldn’t even remember what he looked like. That guy did a lot for a virtual stranger – asking his buddies about openings, putting his credentials behind me. Paying a gift like that forward is something that will stick with you (and the person you help) for a lifetime.

3. Follow your passion to the end.

At least once in your life, you should take a chance on yourself and follow your passion. Even if it fails, even if it never goes anywhere, you should try it. It might mean quitting your job and trying out a new career. It might mean giving up your weekends for three months to work on an idea that’s been burning in your brain. Whatever it is, you will never regret the time spent to try something you always wanted to do. On the flip side, you will always wonder “what could have been” if you never try.

4. Forgive someone that did something terrible to you.

Forgiveness comes easier to some folks than others. I used to lie strictly in the “hard to forgive” category. I held onto bad feelings and let them simmer. Those kinds of emotions not only affect your relationship with that particular person, it bleeds into other parts of your life as well.

I’m still not as good as forgiving as I’d like to be, but I’ve been able to make peace with a few of the big wrongs that have happened against me in my life. I discovered that forgiveness doesn’t mean the action becomes acceptable, just that I don’t have to dwell on it. I can let go of guilt and anger and focus my energies on better things. I’ve saved a few relationships with certain family members this way. They’re not perfect relationships, but they’re better than what I had before, and I’m a much happier person overall.

5. Take a chance on love after you’ve been burned.

It’s true, love can hurt. Unreturned love is maybe the worse type of human hurt, whether it comes from a parent, a child, a lover, or a friend. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been burned by love in some form or fashion. It’s a rite of passage of being human. But to never choose love again for fear of being hurt – that’s the worst punishment of all. After you’ve been burned, you cherish it more, you improve how you give it, and like wine, it gets better with age. Find someone worthy and give love a second chance.

* * *

So my bucket list suggestions may not be as exciting as caviar or Yellowstone National Park, but I’d say they would have more impact on your overall life experience.

Do you have any other universal bucket list items to add? Please share them in the comments below.

Photo by Mizrak

81 thoughts on “5 Items that Should be on Every Bucket List”

    1. I agree. I don’t agree with the “100 places you must visit” kind of lists because they miss some of the major ingredients to a fulfilled life.

      Questions such as are you happy, are you fulfilled are more important than seeing some monument.

      You can see all those places and eat all those foods and die without ever feeling your life has a meaning or without ever experiencing true joy

      1. That’s why I wrote the list. I know people who have never traveled far from their hometowns, but are very fulfilled in life. I know others who travel all the time, but still look for meaning. I don’t think the places you’ve been (and of course, the foods you eat) define who you are.

  1. Great list. I’m yet to do (1). I’m starting on (3) for this next year. (5) is a challenge I’m overcoming. Thank you.

    May I just add a “journey” to the list. I find that people who I’ve spoken to after they have traveled through, or to their home/motherland, have gained a lot of insight to their heritage. It helps to discover some elements to the composition of who your are, where you came from, and where you can go.

    It’s now on my list as well.



    1. A “journey” is a terrific suggestion for a bucket list item. I’m actually quite a home body, but after high school, went on a few trips that changed who I am today (in a good way). Getting out of your routine can do wonders for your perspective.

      Thanks for the addition.

      1. I agree with the journey suggestion; it should be on everyone’s bucket list. I’ve never had the chance to experience much outside of the small town that I grew up in and the even smaller town that I currently attend college in. I swore to myself that once I graduate from here that I’ll take a summer long journey; no plans in mind, just letting each day lead me to the next.

        Thank you for the wonderful suggestion!

  2. Cracking list. Not sure if I’m doing #1, it’s my personal policy to practice #2 all the time, finally embarked on my journey to #3, done #4, done #5 more than once! Really enjoyed this post. Thanks. :)

    1. Glad you liked the list, Craig. #1 and #4 are the hardest for me. They come and go in my life in spurts. I always put them off, but when I can do them, they make my life much richer.

  3. This is good food for thought, Deborah. Thanks for writing a list that can apply to everyone across the board, regardless of restraints of money, time, and location.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the list, Amelia. I had other items that I considered adding to the list, but honestly, there are a lot of things that can’t quite go universal. These I imagined would be good for people in all walks of life.

    1. Good luck on number 3. It sometimes takes a while to gather up the courage. From someone who tried (and failed actually), it’s completely worth it. In a weird way, I feel more confident, rather than less, that I can take a risk and achieve things.

  4. I love it Deborah. Way better than a standard list. I’d like to add: Do at least 1 thing that is safe but scares the living daylights out of you. Thanks for a wonderful post.

    1. Great addition to the list, Brian. Doing something that is out of your comfort zone will force you look at the world in a new way. I take it you add this from your own experience?

      1. For sure Deborah. Every time I’ve been really stuck and finally pushed out of the comfort zone, growth happens. My big experience was a resort dive on the Great Barrier Reef, it was amazing. Nothing has felt very scary since.

  5. I love this list! I am currently doing a few of them, but my biggest hurdle is #5. I have a hard time loving after being burned so many times. This is definitely inspiring me to keep trying, open my heart to love. I also think it goes hand in hand with #4. Sometimes people hurt us or burn us without even realizing it. We need to be able to forgive them, and learn to love through the pain. It’s tough for all of us, but it’s nice to know there’s other people like you and I, that are going through this same type of thing.

    1. Taking a chance on love once you’ve been hurt or burned in the past might possibly be one of the hardest things to accomplish. I’ve personally have been dealing with this problem, and it’s been greatly affecting my everyday life. I have surrounded myself with amazing friends and I’m blessed to have such a wonderful family, but I always second guess everything that everyone tells me. In a way, it’s like I can’t accept that I’m finally happy again, and it all goes back to the fact that I’ve been burned so many times by people around me.

    2. I don’t anything on the list is particularly easy. Certainly not loving after being burned. There’s a reason why people don’t want to try again…it hurts. And forgiveness after great pain is very difficult. If you can manage it, though, life will open many more doors for you, and you’ll be amazed at your own strength.

      Good luck on your journey!

  6. Standing up for something that you believe in is never easy to do, especially if it goes against a social norm that scares you to death to think of going against. But you including the political, spiritual, and social aspect of this is what truly sparked my interest in your blog. It takes a real person to admit that those three things must work hand-in-hand before anything successful can come into anyone’s lives, before anyone can stand up for what they believe in.

    The difficult part to this task, in my opinion, is finding the happy medium with these three different districts of one’s life. Good luck to everyone who is trying to do something great with their lives and standing up for something that they full-heartedly believe in. Great things really do happen to great people.

    1. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on the blog this morning, Jaimie. The nature of standing up for something you believe in means that, inevitably, someone probably doesn’t think the way you do. For people (like myself) who try hard to be well liked, this can be a bit of a challenge. A wise mentor told me once, though, that if you don’t stand up, you stand for nothing. His words give me strength to try to follow the right convictions, even if others don’t.

      Have a great week!

    1. Forgiveness is hard. It helps me to look past the outcome of a situation and look at the intentions of the person. More often than not, the other party didn’t mean to do us harm.

  7. #1 I do a lot in my own subtle way–and sometimes it gets you burned in the process, but if you don’t stand up for something you believe in, it will never get better or changed, etc. #2 I haven’t done lately, but I have helped out some people (strangers) monetarily a few times and in a couple instances, I think I kept them from doing something drastic, so I am proud of that! :) #3 I struggle with fear–of failing, or being financially insolvent, etc–that one is a real struggle, but some day I know I will achieve it! #4 is not always easy–it takes time–but when it all comes to the end of the day–why harbor any ill will toward ANYONE? :) #5 That one has never been a struggle for me as I always knew that good things come to those who wait, never to settle for something that doesn’t feel right in your heart, and be open enough to give someone a chance…

  8. well, number 1 i’ve already got (environmentallism) and i certainly hope i do help out people i don’t know, from my school to carrying someone’s bag. if i get the chance, most definitely do that. as for the whole “love” thing…um, i think i’m a bit young for that (i’m 14) so….nope. although i’m ready for a life without dating or marriage, i dunno. O.o
    currently working on my passion, though it’s HARD…sirusly hard. as for forgiveness…oh deary me. i’m working on it!

    i suggest everyone try writing without worrying about how it looks, just once. write some small story that peeped out in the back closet, a how to on something you like, advice in the form of a list, or simply a list of things to do: far reaching version, down to the places you’ll visit.
    um….also to try and understand a difficult concept, so well that you can explain it to someone who knows nothing about it. quite a confidence booster, and really rewarding. or you could perfect some skill you’ve “never been good at.”

    1. Thanks for the additions to the list. As someone who has used writing as therapy, motivation, and a host of other things, I would definitely recommend writing to get your thoughts down on paper. I also really like the “understand a difficult concept” idea. I work with a bunch of technical people like web developers, and I find I’m always better off understanding the ins and outs of their challenges, even if I have to look “stupid” and ask a bunch of questions. It’s helped me out a lot in life to understand things that are above my head.

    1. Congrats on taking the plunge into starting your own business. It’s a scary adventure, and it never turns out as you expect, but I’ve had a lot of fun.

  9. Great bucket list – Forgiveness is a great one for it is an act of self love according to Mother Teresa….

    LOVE, LOVE and more LOVE to people that have hurt you.

    Travelling is a good thing – more places to visit and less regrets!

    In love and light,

  10. Eat some jellied eel. It was possibly the worst thing I have ever tried. The point is to try things that you might hate so that you don’t have second hand opinions but your own based on real experience.

    1. Hahaha…jellied eel doesn’t sound like my thing either. Great point though…you should try things you might hate. You never know what you might enjoy. (I recently discovered after a childhood of hating brussel sprouts that they’re actually quite tasty when cooked properly.)

  11. Great list. If everyone felt like this our world would be such a better place. Four and Five go together in a way, because if you forgive you aren’t carrying around bitterness and hate and you have the freedom to love and be loved.

    1. Four and five are related, but not mutually exclusive. I’m pretty great about getting back on the “love horse,” have never been that great at forgiving in general though. To your point, I have gotten better about loving others once I learned to forgive more easily.

  12. How about…enjoy the moment? In a life of lists and crossing things off, some of my favourite times are when i put all lists aside and just enjoy some quiet time, or some music or watching my kids in the pool, or just having a really good chat with my husband about ‘stuff’!
    Watch your forehead uncrease as you put your goals aside for awhile and just enjoy life at that moment.

  13. This was a wonderful list! It really was a new way to look at life…I will definitely be rethinking my bucket list! Number Five was very sweet and it made me smile. All of them were very profound…

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Glad you liked the list. Number Five is quite personal for me. I took a big risk on love 4 years ago, and it was the best thing I ever did. I hope the same thing happens to everyone else out there.

  14. I really love each and every point.

    As I follow all of the practically in my own life, I know how powerful they are.

    Short, yet, effective article!

  15. Lots of people said, “Great list!” and they are of course right. But the idea of a bucket list makes me wonder. “Kicking the bucket” usually sneaks up on people. It could happen tomorrow. Forget that, it could happen TODAY. The thing that strikes me about a bucket list isn’t what’s on it but when are you going to get on it? How ever long you think you have, you pulled that time span out of absolutely nowhere. There is only now. Why are you doing anything that’s not on your bucket list? http://www.veraclaritas.com/busy-equals-blame/

    1. That’s an excellent point. Why make a list if you don’t do something about it now? Even if you’re only making a little progress day by day, it’s much better than putting it off indefinitely when you have “free time.” There is no time like now to start doing the best things in life.

  16. How about learning something new? Every day of your life, I think, you should work towards learning something new. Whether it be a new food, a new experience, a new culture, a new subject, a new quirk of nature, whatever. Just learn. And never stop til the day you die.

    I think that’s the point of those 100 places and 100 foods bucket lists. Unfortunately, they kind of forget to mention that part. It isn’t about WHAT you learn. It’s the learning that matters. Just learning something new about your child of 24 years could be a major learning experience in your life, more meaningful than caviar or the Eiffel Tower.

    Be like a child. Curious and ever-learning. That’s #2 on my bucket list (right underneath pursuing my dreams).

    Great list, btw. :)

    1. That’s a great addition to the list, Kyla. I hadn’t thought about how learning something new ties into the 100 places/foods. I thought of those lists more of an experience than as an opportunity for growth, but certainly, that’s always a good goal for anyone’s lifetime.

  17. Good post. It all begins with a healthy mind and conscious living. The more these concepts are experienced the more we can enjoy being in the world.
    “forgiveness is realising that what you thought happened -didnt”.

  18. Doing for those less than ourselves with little consideration for anything in return. I think a lot of people say they are doing that but will use it to tell their friends and build their worth because they use it as a tool to show how good of a person they are!

  19. Hi Deborah, your number one is the one that should be on everyone’s list, stand up for what you believe in, as Alan Watts states whatever you are interested in there will be others interested in this too. It maybe scary to put your head above the parapet but when you do it you can help others to climb out of the shadows and become the people they secretly desire to be.

  20. Wonderful list Deborah! And happy to see some alignment with some of the things I am already doing / plan to do.

    1) I am doing; 2) Am doing in a small way for many people; but to make a real impact, I believe I may have to do a big one; 3) Must do, but have not yet identified which one to go for … hope time will let me do that … have something going on, but am not sure whether that has reached the level that I can call it a “passion”; 4) Done that … that was the most difficult … hope no more difficult ones in the pipeline; 5) Wish I can get away with “No Comments” :)

  21. Now that’s a GREAT list! These are all things I’m working on. I wrote a book about forgiving my greatest enemy: the cult leader of my victimized youth. I hope to write more books with the intent to be a great help to as many people as possible. Learn about a “A Train Called Forgiveness” at http://www.danerickson.net. My second book “At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy comes out in about a week.

  22. Hey Deborah, thank you for sharing this with us.

    I think we can definitely relate to the 5 suggestions you made because they inspire constant movement, flow with the pursuance of a life with purpose and contribution :)

    I think it is also a good idea to review our bucket lists regularly and to keep expanding upon the ideas that support our flow. In particular, its healthy to focus on main ones which give the highest impact for our personal growth to overcome challenges presented in our lives. This is because life is constantly evolving.

    Here is a quote that I devised and like to share because I feel it supports this concept “Life is a constant movement of spontaneous change. Either we resist it or keep moving. Creativity is movement.”

    Have a great day.

    1. Thanks for mentioning that life is about constant movement. It’s very true that we grow and change. Reviewing your bucket list to make sure you’re focusing on the right ones (or that it hasn’t dramatically changed) is a great suggestion.

  23. Thank you Deborah for sharing this list. Out of the five items you listed, I think I resonate the most with helping others and having a passion in life. When we give to others, without expecting anything in return, we actually receive so much more. Giving to others from the heart gives us so much joy. When you put out loving and positive energy, you receive that in return. So the “rewards” of giving are two-fold. Both the giver and the receiver receive something from the exchange.

    Also, having a passion in life is so important to feeling fulfilled and experiencing life’s intrinsic rewards. Passion leads to joyful living, and I definitely agree that it should be on everyone’s bucket list.

    1. Glad you found a few items that resonated with you. I agree full heartedly that giving and passion add rewards to our lives that are hard to achieve in other ways.

    1. I’ve lived both sides of the “passion” coin: life with lots of passion and life without much at all. From experience, I can say that it’s much more fulfilling to go the passion route, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expect.

  24. Deborah, I love your list. #2 is so true and dear to my heart. Long ago someone told me to go help others instead of paying them back for a favor. Since then, the satisfaction and joy I get from helping others is priceless. A universal bucket list item: Do something you’re afraid to do.

    1. Veronica,

      I too have found my life changed by giving without expecting anything in return. It’s amazing how good you feel just helping others. And thanks for the addition. Doing something you’re afraid to do is a great addition to the list. It helps you understand you can overcome any obstacle.


  25. Best bucket list ever. Funny thing, I try to live by this but I never thought of it in a form of a bucket list- silly when you think about it, because in the ends this is what really matter.
    I am still struggling with #4 but I’ll get there, I’m sure.

  26. I think number two is the best. Very few people have ever given in a completely selfless way (i.e. not even allowing themselves the opportunity to be praised for it). I always get my clients to do this at some point

    Enjoyed reading this

  27. Deborah,

    What an amazing way to approach a bucket list!! I’m a coach helping people to really find a way to live off their passions, but the inspiration to do that is often a realization that life is too short not to. Which is why I like bucket lists. But you have inspired me to think more about the universal bucket list and what should go on it! Thanks!

  28. Great list Deborah! I agree that these items should be on everyone’s bucket list. In fact, I’m working on a similar piece on what I currently refer to as a spiritual bucket list.

    When I hear someone’s “bucket list”, it usually follows with a list of more selfish or egocentric things that someone is dying to do. Very infrequently do you hear about how someone is itching to give back to the world or help without recompense. Perhaps we can think of going to places like Yellowstone as rewards for some of the things above, or places we may find ourselves when we’re living #1-5.

    1. Great comment, Jack. I think what people are missing when they make a bucket list only for themselves is that they can do great things that will have a lasting impact after they are gone. Doing things for others helps preserve your memory. It also has the potential to make you feel better than simply doing something for fun (although I admit, I love my fun too.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *